Behind the bombings in Ukraine, dwindling stocks of Russian missiles

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In retaliation for the attack on the Crimean bridge, Russia unleashed a barrage of bombardments on Ukraine. An operation deemed counterproductive by several military experts, while Russia is struggling to renew its ammunition stocks.

Russia claimed responsibility on Tuesday, October 11, for a new series of strikes targeting strategic Ukrainian infrastructure. The day before, 19 people had died across Ukraine, during the most intense bombing campaign conducted by Moscow for several months.

This show of force, which follows the explosive attack which targeted the Crimean bridge on Saturday, is part of a difficult context for the Russian army, which is struggling to stem the Ukrainian advance on the eastern and southern fronts. Far from embodying a new strategy, this military escalation reflects the feverishness of the Russian regime, according to several experts contacted by France 24.

Less and less effective missiles

The salvoes of missiles, rockets and drones sent earlier this week by Russia hit civilian energy infrastructure as well as urban centers in more than 20 towns and villages, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“This is not the first time that Russia has launched strikes of such magnitude,” said Jeff Hawn, specialist in Russian military issues and external consultant for the New Lines Institute, an American geopolitical research center. “It wanted to prove that it is still capable of launching large-scale punitive attacks across Ukraine and hitting critical infrastructure. But these operations posed two major problems for Moscow: they rarely destroy their targets and do not can only be triggered episodically because they represent a significant military investment.”

According to the Ukrainian military, Russia fired 75 missiles at the country, 41 of which were shot down by air defense. During their videoconference meeting on Wednesday, the G7 leaders promised kyiv the sending of additional military aid, including new and more efficient air defense systems. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Tuesday signaled the arrival of the German Iris-T missile launcher, which he said marked the beginning of a “new era” for Ukrainian air defense.

Despite the massive Western military aid sent to Ukraine in recent months, Russia, considered the second largest army in the world, retains a large military advantage over its neighbor. In the long term, this dynamic could nevertheless change, analyzes Jeff Hawn. “The Ukrainian army is growing in strength while Russia sees its military capabilities inexorably diminish, as it is unable to maintain its stocks.”

Supply issues

At the end of April, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar claimed that Russia had already sent 1,300 missiles against Ukraine since the start of the invasion on February 24, estimating that Moscow had then used almost half of its available stock.

“It is estimated that Russian industry has a production capacity of 100 to 200 new missiles per year,” explains General Christian Quesnot, former chief of staff of the President of the Republic. “The problem today is renewal. It is difficult because the Russians have steel sheets and explosives but are limited in electronic guidance systems.”

Imposed from the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the economic sanctions against Russia have weighed heavily on the Russian arms industry, which is struggling to source electronic components.

In this context, Moscow was forced to greatly reduce or even interrupt its arms deliveries abroad and to turn to new suppliers, such as Iran or North Korea.

>> Read also: Far from the front, Ukrainian cities under threat from Iranian drones

Soldiers on their own

Besides the impact of sanctions, the Russian military industry is paying the price for decades of mismanagement, says Jeff Hawn. “Moscow certainly has huge quantities of military equipment, but some of this equipment is unusable, due to the incompetence of the people supposed to maintain it as well as the institutional corruption that reigns in this sector. The sale of parts and military equipment on the black market is a widespread practice in Russia, to the point that already before the war, some conscripts found themselves having to buy their own equipment.

In recent months, faced with an increasingly difficult military context, Russian soldiers have let their anger explode on the networks, feeling abandoned by their hierarchy.

“The Russians need ammunition to support their troops who are on the front line and who complain bitterly of not having fire”, underlines General Michel Yakovleff, former vice-chief of staff of the Grand Quartier General of the Allied Powers in Europe (NATO). “While its soldiers are fighting on the ground, Russia sets off fireworks. This operation makes no military sense.”

If the Russian bombing campaign triggered a power cut across Ukraine earlier this week, it did not prevent the forces in kyiv from continuing their counter-offensive. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian presidency announced the recapture from Russian forces of five localities in the southern region of Kherson, annexed at the end of September by Moscow.

Behind the bombings in Ukraine, dwindling stocks of Russian missiles


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